Hospital-Level Care at Home for Acutely Ill Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Ann Intern Med. 2020 Jan 21;172(2):77-85. doi: 10.7326/M19-0600. Epub 2019 Dec 17.


Background: Substitutive hospital-level care in a patient's home may reduce cost, health care use, and readmissions while improving patient experience, although evidence from randomized controlled trials in the United States is lacking.

Objective: To compare outcomes of home hospital versus usual hospital care for patients requiring admission.

Design: Randomized controlled trial. ( NCT03203759).

Setting: Academic medical center and community hospital.

Patients: 91 adults (43 home and 48 control) admitted via the emergency department with selected acute conditions.

Intervention: Acute care at home, including nurse and physician home visits, intravenous medications, remote monitoring, video communication, and point-of-care testing.

Measurements: The primary outcome was the total direct cost of the acute care episode (sum of costs for nonphysician labor, supplies, medications, and diagnostic tests). Secondary outcomes included health care use and physical activity during the acute care episode and at 30 days.

Results: The adjusted mean cost of the acute care episode was 38% (95% CI, 24% to 49%) lower for home patients than control patients. Compared with usual care patients, home patients had fewer laboratory orders (median per admission, 3 vs. 15), imaging studies (median, 14% vs. 44%), and consultations (median, 2% vs. 31%). Home patients spent a smaller proportion of the day sedentary (median, 12% vs. 23%) or lying down (median, 18% vs. 55%) and were readmitted less frequently within 30 days (7% vs. 23%).

Limitation: The study involved 2 sites, a small number of home physicians, and a small sample of highly selected patients (with a 63% refusal rate among potentially eligible patients); these factors may limit generalizability.

Conclusion: Substitutive home hospitalization reduced cost, health care use, and readmissions while increasing physical activity compared with usual hospital care.

Primary funding source: Partners HealthCare Center for Population Health and internal departmental funds.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers
  • Acute Disease
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cost Control
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Home Care Services / economics*
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Hospitals, Community
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Readmission / statistics & numerical data
  • United States

Associated data